North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

September 5, 2013

UPDATED: Attorney general's office shuts down S.W.A.T.S.; more than 260 charges filed for deceptive practices

Controversial company gained notoriety for deer-antler spray

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

GARDENDALE — Agents from the Alabama Attorney General's Consumer Protection Section have shut down a controversial Gardendale business, and filed more than 260 charges of deceptive trade practices.

Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies helped the attorney general's staff enforce a temporary restraining order against S.W.A.T.S. (Sports With Alternatives To Steroids) at the company's office and gym on Decatur Highway Thursday afternoon. The order was issued by Jefferson Circuit Judge Caryl Privett in a hearing that morning.

In a statement issued by Assistant Attorney General Noel Barnes, the company and owners Mitch Ross and Chris Key are accused of deceptively marketing two products: a "compression cap" that the company claims would aid in the recovery from concussions suffered in athletic events, and their spray containing extract from deer antler velvet, which contains the substance Insulin-like Growth Hormone-1, or IGF-1.

The restraining order allows a receiver to be appointed to seize the assets of the company, which is formally known as SWATS Edge Performance Chips LLC. Barnes would not say how they came to know about the products, or a customer had filed a complaint.

A hearing will be held in Privett's court on Sept. 19 to consider whether to make the injunction permanent until the case can be tried in court.

Ross and Key have been the subject of numerous national stories, including a lengthy piece by Sports Illustrated, about the IGF-1 spray that they claim has been used by numerous high-profile athletes, including now-retired NFL star Ray Lewis and PGA Tour golfer Vijay Singh. Pro wrestler Bill Goldberg appears on the company's website to promote the product, as do golfers Bernhard Langer and Mark Calcavecchia.

Several professional sports leagues, including the NFL, have since banned the product as a performance-enhancing substance. However, the World Anti-Doping Agency no longer has IGF-1 on its banned substances list, largely due to a complaint by Singh against the tour.

Former NFL linebacker David Vobora, at the time playing with the St. Louis Rams, won a $5.4 million settlement against S.W.A.T.S. after he was suspended for four games for violating the NFL's banned-substances policy. Vobora claimed that the product label provided by S.W.A.T.S. did not list a substance that was on the leagues banned list.

Regarding the concussion cap, Barnes' statement said that S.W.A.T.S. claimed that it should be placed on the head after contact "to minimize inflammation of the brain." The statement quoted the company website as saying, "Take care of your child's brain, because a mind is a terrible thing to waste."

As of Thursday afternoon, the cap was no longer listed on the company website at swatsedge.com, but the IGF-1 spray, called "The Ultimate Spray," remained.

Updated at 5:15 and 6:00 p.m. with additional information and photos.